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Women's US Open in Polo

La Fe stormed to victory on their debut in the US Open Women’s Polo Championship final

A week of high-calibre women’s polo hosted by Port Mayaca Polo Club in Okeechobee, Florida, culminated in the illustrious US Open Women’s Polo Championship presented by Eastern Hay.

For the first time the final, which took place on 19 March, was held as the featured Sunday match on the legendary US Polo Assn. Field One at the National Polo Center. Despite looming rain in the forecast, the most prestigious women’s cup in American polo pitted competition newcomer La Fe (Winifred Branscum, Pamela Flanagan, Hope Arellano and Hazel Jackson) against Dundas (Ana de la Fuente, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs, Mia Cambiaso and Nina Clarkin) with $40,000 in prize money on the line.

Relying on non-stop offensive repower, especially from 8-goal American Hope Arellano, La Fe launched an impressive effort that ended in a dominant 12-6 rst-time victory. Previously, on Saturday 18 March, the third-place play-off saw San Saba defeat El Cid Fitness 8-3 to claim the bronze position.

In their journey to the nal, Dundas faced an early setback when team owner Sarah Siegel-Magness suffered an injury in the rst game. Valentina Tarazona lled in during the initial game and Ana de la Fuente took over for the rest of the competition.

Discussing La Fe’s team strategy for the nal, English rider, Hazel Jackson commented, ‘The main thing for us was “initiate”. Initiate the defence rst, and then attack. Our plan was supposed to be much more disciplined with the man, and then we go on attack.’

‘They’re all extremely well-mounted,’ Arellano noted. ‘So playing against them, we knew we were going to have to get them early to cut the horse factor as much as we could.’ Pamela Flanagan added, ‘In my opinion, they’re one of the most talented teams in the tournament. Mia and Nina are a force to be reckoned with.’

Quick eld goals from La Fe’s Arellano and Jackson saw them take an early 2-1 advantage. Cambiaso responded to nd the goal once from the eld then capitalised from the penalty line twice in the second. Only one response from Arellano shifted Dundas into the lead 4-3 heading into the third chukka.

Regrouping, La Fe’s Arellano and Jackson hammered in six goals between the third and fourth chukkas – shutting Dundas out completely. La Fe now rmly in the lead 9-4 heading into the fth chukka, Dundas attempted to ignite a comeback late in the game, but two goals from Cambiaso were met by goals from Jackson, Arellano and Flanagan in the fth and sixth. As time ebbed away, La Fe’s unwavering efforts were rewarded with a commanding 12-6 win and rst US Open Women’s Polo Championship title.

Along with the championship, La Fe earned $30,000 in prize money, while Dundas received $10,000, donated by title sponsor Eastern Hay with the support of the USPA Prize Money Matching Programme. In the spirit of philanthropy and in partnership with USPA Global Licensing, both nalists also received a $2,500 cheque to donate to a polo charity of their choice. La Fe chose to support Replay Polo, while Dundas contributed to Work To Ride.

For 17-year-old Intercollegiate/ Interscholastic competitor, Winnie Branscum, the trophy marked a successful career debut on the high-goal Florida scene.

This is my first time on this level, and I’ve been using it to launch myself into the world down here in Wellington [Florida]. It means a lot, not just to win this tournament, but it means a lot of opportunity for me. I’m proud of what I did with my team, and I’m excited for what’s to come because of it.

For her impressive six-goal performance in the nal, Hope Arellano was named Most Valuable Player. After the tournament she was raised to 9 goals and will be the 10 in December – making here the rst American 10 goaler. Arellano’s second chukka spare and sixth chukka horse, 9-year-old Macumba, was awarded Best Playing Pony.

Speaking about what a momentous accomplishment for women’s polo it was to have the US Open Women’s Final as the featured Sunday match on US Polo Assn. Field One, Pamela Flanagan beamed:

This is huge for the women, and I hope it stays like this for years to come. It’s an uphill battle, but we’re here, we made it. It means a lot for me, not just to play here and win here, [but also] for all of women’s polo. It shows how it’s growing and how people are taking it seriously, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

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